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Waiters complains about lack of playing time after Heat loss

MILWAUKEE – Five takeaways from the Heat’s 124-86 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on Tuesday:

Dion Waiters is fed up with his lack of playing time.

After playing just four minutes in the first half and 11:56 for the game, Waiters made clear this is no longer acceptable.

“[Expletive] patience!” he said. “I want to play. I’ve been patient long enough. What do I got to be patient for? Come on man. I’ve been patient. I think everybody knows that. It’s time. What are we waiting for? If I’m out there, play me.”

Waiters then made clear that “the next step is being back in the starting lineup, [expletive] like that. Patience has run out. I’m tired of this. Get back to my regular self.”

Will he say something to Erik Spoelstra about it? “I ain’t say nothing to nobody,” he said.

Waiters started 73 of his 76 Heat appearances over his first two seasons with Miami before ankle surgery last January sidelined him for nearly a year.

Since returning from that surgery, he has been available for seven games and hasn’t started any. He didn’t play in two games and played only 10, 24, 20, 9 and 12 minutes in the other five, including a combined 23 over the past two games.

Waiters was the 11th player to enter the game Tuesday, with the Heat already well behind. He scored four points on 1 for 4 shooting with one assist and three turnovers.

Spoelstra wasn’t available for comment after Waiters’ remarks but has said repeatedly that Waiters needs to be patient because he’s coming off a significant injury and because the team has considerable depth.

Last March, the Heat fined Hassan Whiteside for an expletive-filled tirade about his lack of playing time late in games. It will be interesting to see if the Heat does the same with Waiters.

Waiters wasn’t the only one troubled by what happened Tuesday.

Justise Winslow saw something uncharacteristic about this team as Milwaukee pushed a 24-point halftime lead to 38.

“Guys looked like we didn’t want to be here when we were down 20,” he said. “We can’t have that. Guys got to want to compete from 20, [30] down. We became disconnected.”

And then Winslow said something telling, that it’s “about guys buying in and being all into this team.”

Despite the win against Boston last week, the Heat remains at a deficit against teams that stand above them in the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Tuesday’s loss dropped the Heat to 2-6 against teams above Miami in the East. “We never think teams above us we’re underdogs to,” James Johnson said. “This is not who we are. We can’t overlook a team like this or come in mediocre.”

Miami fell to 21-21 overall.

Said Spoelstra: “I didn’t see this coming. They’re a very good team and you have to bring your best game against them and it starts with your effort, your focus.”

Miami’s defense was uncharacteristically porous.

The Bucks shot 50 percent from the field and 43.6 percent (17 for 39) on threes. Milwaukee also scored 23 points on 19 Heat turnovers, including three apiece by Winslow and Waiters.

What’s especially frustrating, though, was the fact the Bucks surged ahead by 26 in the first half despite getting only five points from star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 12 and was needed for just 24 minutes.

And it wasn’t as if Khris Middleton (11 points) erupted, either.

Instead, it was Eric Bledsoe (17), Malcolm Brogdon (16) and a slew of Bucks reserves, led by Sterling Brown (13) and Tony Snell (10).

“It was just an onslaught, attacking us in transition, off the dribble, and that opened up the threes,” Spoelstra said. “These are the games I can’t wrap my mind around. “

Josh Richardson’s shooting struggles continue.

He entered at 40.8 percent from the field this season, which ranked 24th among 26 shooting guards, ahead of only Tim Hardaway Jr. and Eric Gordon.

He opened 1 for 7 on Tuesday and closed 3 for 11 on a six-point night.

He shot just 35.9 percent in December and is now at 42 percent in seven January games.

Richardson has been dealing with knee tendinitis and perhaps that’s affecting him.

Meanwhile, offense remains modest from the Heat’s starting forwards.

This was hardly why Miami lost, but James Johnson didn’t even attempt a shot in 21 scoreless minutes and has topped 11 points only four times in 26 games. He has five points or fewer in three of his last four.

Meanwhile, Rodney McGruder (four points) shot 2 for 8 and is now 8 for 29 over his last five games. His point totals in those games: 5, 3, 5, 3 and 4.

A case could be made to reinsert Waiters with the starters at guard and shift Richardson back to small forward and McGruder to the bench. But Spoelstra values McGruder’s defense and ability to play effectively without the ball in his hands.

And the Heat would like to make it work with Johnson because of his defensive acumen. But Miami has other options at power forward in Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones Jr.

In Johnson’s defense, he had six rebounds and two blocks in his 21 minutes. And he had the best plus/minus among Miami starters, with the Heat outscored by only one point in his minutes.

Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow scored 19 apiece and were the only Heat players to score in double figures.

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